The Ugly Old Brute

By Randall MellJuly 8, 2010, 2:58 am

OAKMONT, Pa. – Oakmont can take your breath away.

It isn’t because it’s built with majestic backdrops like Pebble Beach.

It’s the fearsome nature of the golf course that is home to this week’s U.S. Women’s Open.

The great golf writer Herbert Warren Wind called Oakmont an “ugly old brute.” Hall of Famer Gene Sarazen once said it possessed all the charm of a “sock in the head.”

The man who built the golf course more than 100 years ago relished such descriptions.

“A shot poorly played should be irrevocably lost,” Henry C. Fownes said after building the course and founding the club in 1903.

This old course is taking the breath away from another generation of LPGA pros with the U.S. Women’s Open being played at Oakmont 18 years after its first appearance here.

“I think everyone is probably a little fearful of this golf course,” said Karrie Webb. “I think that’s a good thing.”

Webb loves the course and the setup, but the sentiment isn’t universally shared this week.

“There are U.S. Open courses, and there are U.S. Women’s Open courses,” said Dean Herden, Jiyai Shin’s caddie. “This is not a good course for a U.S. Women’s Open. The greens are set up too severely.”

Herden said caddies are openly projecting that 10-over par or higher could win this week.

“It’s one of the hardest courses I’ve ever seen,” said Cristie Kerr, the No. 1 women’s player in the world. 

Christie Kerr
Cristie Kerr hits a shot during a practice round prior to to the start of the U.S. Women's Open.
(Getty Images)
If Kerr didn’t believe that before stepping into a fairway bunker at the 14th hole in a practice round Monday, she did after. Kerr was about 100 yards out and set up with a sand wedge believing she could carry the steep bunker face and reach the green. She took one swipe and watched the ball hit the lip and roll back to her. She took a second swipe. And then a third swipe. With the same results.

“It wasn’t a bad lie,” Kerr said.

This is the same woman who won the LPGA Championship two weeks ago by a record 12 shots.

There could be another record set this week, one that Herden fears could embarrass the women’s game.

The last time the winner of the U.S. Women’s Open was double digits over par was 1972 when Susie Berning won at 11 over at Winged Foot. Actually, the winning scores have been more than fair in recent years in this championship. In the last 25 years, the winner has been over par just twice. Birdie Kim was 3 over at Cherry Hills in 2005 and Se Ri Pak won in a playoff against Jenny Chuasiriporn in '98 after they both finished at 6 over at Blackwolf Run.

“This could be the toughest U.S. Open course I’ve played,” said Webb, the Hall of Famer who won this championship in 2000 and ’01. “But I think it’s really, really fair.

“I love it. It’s right in front of you. You know what you have to do, but you have to have the guts to do it.”

Oakmont has proven itself as one of the great major championship venues over the years. It’s home to a major for the 17th time this week. Bobby Jones, Gene Sarazen, Sam Snead, Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus are among the winners here.

The course is distinguished by its 210 bunkers, diabolical greens and inland links look and feel. The undulating greens have been described as more difficult than Augusta National’s.

When the women played here in 1992, a pair of future Hall of Famers battled in a playoff with Patty Sheehan defeating Juli Inkster.

Mike Davis, the U.S. Golf Association senior director of rules and competition, hears the fears players have expressed this week, but he heard them in equal measure from the men before Angel Cabrera held off Tiger Woods to win the U.S. Open at Oakmont in ’07. Cabrera won at 5 over in a championship Davis thought played out extremely well.

There were some nightmares that year. Aaron Baddeley was the 54-hole leader and shot 80. Davis believes setting up conditions to identify the best players can mean struggles for players who aren’t at their best. It goes with the territory.

Davis wants this week’s U.S. Women’s Open to play as closely as possible to the way it played for the men in ’07.

Of course, there are changes in setup to balance out the different strengths of the sexes.

The U.S. Open played to 7,230 yards for the men as a par 70. It will play to 6,613 yards as a par 71 for the women. The greens were rolling at nearly 15 on the Stimpmeter for the men. They’ll roll at around 14 for the women. Davis said slowing the green speed is required to create similar shot values into the greens. The fact that women spin the ball less means the greens cannot be as firm in creating comparable shot values.

“You want the ball [on approach shots] to bounce, bounce and then grab and roll,” Davis said.

Kerr loves the setup and how it will test her total game, including her strategic skills and emotions.

“Being a hero is not going to win this U.S. Open,” Kerr said. “It’s whoever is going to take their medicine the best, save as many pars as they can, and move on.”

Despite the fears from some players and caddies, Davis is convinced the setup this week will be just right to identify the best player in women’s golf. Of course, he can’t control potential rain, which is forecast Friday and could change conditions.

“I’m excited,” Davis said. “Every championship has things you get excited about, but for some reason when you walk on Oakmont, it just has a mystique to it. I am truly giddy.

“I can tell you this golf course is darn near perfect. In fact, it is perfect.”

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High school seniors win U.S. Amateur Four-Ball

By Associated PressMay 24, 2018, 1:44 am

TEQUESTA, Fla. - The 18-year-old Hammer, from Houston, is set to play at Texas next fall. Barber, from Stuart, Fla., also is 18. He's headed to LSU.

''Growing up watching U.S. Opens and U.S. Amateurs on TV, I just knew being a USGA champion is something that I desperately wanted,'' said Hammer, who qualified for a U.S. Open three years ago at 15. ''And to finally do it, it feels incredible. It feels as good, if not better, than I thought it would. And especially being able to do it with Garrett. It's really cool to share this moment.''

Hammer and Cole won the par-4 eighth with a birdie to take a 2-up lead. They took the par-4 10th with a par, won the par-5 13th with an eagle - Barber hit a 4-iron from 235 yards to 3 feet - and halved the next two holes to end the match.

''Cole didn't want me to hit 4-iron,'' Barber said. ''He didn't think I could get it there. I was like, 'I got it.' So I hit it hard, hit pretty much a perfect shot. It was a crazy shot.''

The 32-year-old Dull is from Winter Park, Fla., and the 42-year-old Brooke from Altamonte Springs, Fla.

''Cole Hammer is a special player,'' Brooke said. ''Obviously, he's going to Texas (and) I'm not saying he is Jordan Spieth, but there are certain things that he does.''

In the morning semifinals, Hammer and Barber beat Idaho high school teammates Carson Barry and Sam Tidd, 5 and 4, and Brooke and Dull topped former Seattle University teammates Kyle Cornett and Patrick Sato, 4 and 3.

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Watch: Pumped up Beef deadlifts 485 lbs.

By Grill Room TeamMay 24, 2018, 12:19 am

Andrew "Beef" Johnston has been playing some solid golf on the European Tour this season, and he is clearly pumped up for one of the biggest weeks of the year at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.

Judging from the video below, Beef will have no problems lifting the trophy on Sunday as he reportedly deadlifted 220 kg ... (Googles kilogram to pounds converter, enters numbers) ... that's 485 lbs!

@beefgolf with a new deadlift PB 220kg ! #youcantgowronggettingstrong

A post shared by ETPI (@etpi_performanceunit) on

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Arizona captures NCAA DI Women's Championship

By Jay CoffinMay 23, 2018, 11:56 pm

STILLWATER, Okla. – Turns out this match-play format provides fireworks. Almost always.

In the four years since the women’s NCAA Championship has switched from the stale, 72-hole stroke-play format the championship matches have been pure magic.

This year, for the third time in the past four years, the final outcome came down to the last match and Arizona took home its third title with a 3-2 victory over Alabama on Wednesday when junior Haley Moore defeated senior Lakareber Abe on the 19th hole.

The Wildcats also won NCAA titles in 1996 and 2000, the latter when current Arizona coach Laura Ianello was on the team as a player.

“Arizona is my home, it is where I went to school and [the championship] needs to be back home,” Ianello said. “So I am so proud to be the coach to bring it back.”

Two days ago, Arizona was in the midst of an epic collapse. The Wildcats were safely in the third position after 54 holes of stroke play and needed only to be inside the top eight after 72 holes to advance to the match-play portion of the event.

But they played the worst round of the day and were on the outside looking in with one hole remaining when junior Bianca Pagdanganan made eagle on the par-5 18th hole. That propelled the Wildcats into a playoff against Baylor that they ultimately won.

On the first day of match play, Arizona continued to ride the wave of momentum by defeating Pac-12 rivals UCLA, the top seed, and Stanford, a match-play stalwart the past three years.

Next up for Arizona was Alabama, the top-ranked team in the country and the second seed this week after stroke play.

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Team scoring

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Individual scoring

“Win or lose tomorrow, this has been a hell of a ride,” Ianello said, attempting to take pressure off her team, which, on paper, looked like an underdog.

But you know the saying, anything can happen in match play, and often does.

Alabama coach Mic Potter put out his three first-team All-Americans in the first three spots hoping to jump out to an early lead. Junior Lauren Stephenson played poorly in the opening match and lost, 4 and 3, to freshman Yu-Sang Hou.

Kristen Gillman and Cheyenne Knight dispatched Wildcats Gigi Stoll and Pagdanganan easily in the second and third matches.

Arizona’s Sandra Nordaas beat Angelica Moresco, 1 up, in the fourth match meaning the fifth and final match, which was all square after 16 holes, was going to decide the NCAA title.

Lakareber lost the 17th hole when her approach shot sailed well short and right of the green in thick, gnarly rough. She attempted to advance the ball but could not and headed to the final hole 1 down.

With seemingly every golf fan in Stillwater on site, including several men’s teams here to participate in next week’s championship, Abe hit a laser second shot into the par-5 18th hole setting up a 12-foot look for eagle. Moore missed her birdie putt and Abe won the hole to set up extra holes to decide the championship.

In the extra frame, Moore was left of the green in two shots and Abe was short in the greenside bunker. Moore chipped to 4 feet and Abe’s bunker shot was 6 feet away. Abe missed, Moore made and Arizona walked away with the hardware.

“It means so much, it’s actually like a dream,” Moore said. “I’m just so happy for my team right now.”

Potter has been a head coach for 35 years – at both Furman and Alabama – and finally was able to collect his first NCAA Championship in 2012. Being so close to a second one will sting for quite a while but he will be able to live with the outcome for one simple reason.

“They fought their hearts out all year,” Potter said. “I just want to congratulate them for the way they battled, not only today, but in match play. Everyone gave their best on every shot - that’s all we can ask.”

Arizona def. Alabama, 3-2

Yu-Sang Hou (AZ) def. Lauren Stephenson (AL), 4 and 3

Kristen Gillman (AL) def. Gigi Stoll (AZ), 4 and 3

Cheyenne Knight (AL) def. Bianca Pagdanganan, 4 and 2

Sandra Nordaas (AZ) def. Angelica Moresco (AL), 1 up

Haley Moore (AZ) def. Lakareber Abe (AL), 19th hole

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Elway to play in U.S. Senior Open qualifier

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 23, 2018, 10:25 pm

Tony Romo is not the only ex-QB teeing it up against the pros.

Denver Broncos general manager and Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway will try to qualify for the U.S. Senior Open next week, according to the Denver Post.

And why not? The qualifier and the senior major will be held in Colorado Springs at the Broadmoor. Elway is scheduled to tee off May 28 at 12:10 p.m. ET. The top two finishers will earn a spot in the U.S. Senior Open, June 27 to July 1.